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Vanity Calls Land Rush
When Gate 2 of the 'Vanity' program was announced, there was much anxiety among hams who stood to get a new call. There were only a limited number of good callsigns available. Rumors flew, and every FCC/ARRL bulletin was scrutinized for subtle nuances of meaning. Some hams believed there was an advantage to hand carrying applications to Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, PA, (FCC's collection agent) where they would supposedly be prioritized by order of receipt. It looked like a riot in the making, with hundreds of hams showing up there on the first day! I followed developments in great detail, and was at one point seriously considering making the trip myself to try to get my form and payment in as early as possible. One ham was offering to attempt head-of-the-line delivery of other hams' filings for a $25. fee, implying he had insider knowledge. He had his own list of applicants.
It became clear only a few days before the deadline that the handling at the FCC would be batch processing in lots of one batch per day. Batches received at the bank would be kept together by day, in the interest of fairness, and the FCC computer would randomly and sequentially choose items from each batch for processing until all were handled. It would be OK, therefore, to have the application arrive any time the first day- everyone in that batch had an equal chance. Filings received before opening day were rejected and latecomers who filed a day or more late stood a good chance of missing out on most of their callsign choices. Many of us used couriers like Fedex, and carefully timed shipment. In some ways it was very much like tuning across a DX pileup, reading it, and successfully cracking the pile. This was a good challenge for extra class DXers. To those it mattered to, it was a high stakes, dramatic adventure. Many hams with poor calls got to shed them for much better calls, after a 19 year moratorium dating from 1977 during which no new vanity calls were issued
Unlike some USA regions, the W3 area still had a fairly good pool of available 1x2 callsigns. Even so, it was challenging to make a list of 25 good
DX calls. I spent countless hours sifting through them, making endless lists, and trying them in both CW and voice phonetics, over and over. I considered issues like callsign recognition (memorization), intelligibility in noise (phonetics recognition/CW recognition), shortness, and operator fatigue. Some hams chose calls with their initials- although K3DS was available, I did not think it was a good DX call. Although some hams dropped letters from longer callsigns, K3YG was my 25th (last) choice. What I was after was primarily one that would punch through the pileups and noise better than K3YGU. None of my 25 choices were perfect, but I did exchange my difficult 1x3 call for a better than average 1x2, and even got my first choice,
K3KY . I'm very happy with it!

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